BetteBack June 5, 1977: “Live At Last” Review

Phoenix Arizona Republic
Manilow, Midler only middling
June 5, 1977

Three and a half years ago when Bette Midler played Symphony Hall, she let her piano player open the second half of the show. To say that Barry Manilow was a flop would be too harsh a judgment, but his.three songs weren’t anything to write home about.

As Manilow now talks about it, “For an unknown to do three songs in the middle of Bette
Midler’s act was like performing in the middle of World War II.”

That was three and a half years ago and Manilow didn’t have an audience. ‘While the shoe is not on the other foot, Bette is still big business, times have changed and Manilow has an audience which, is quite possibly larger than Bette.

He has sold far more records, with two gold and two platinum albums. (Of course he has also recorded’more^albums than Bette.

BOTH NOW HAVE Live double albums out on the market both approximate,’ as much as they can, the recent tours of the two.

Manilow’s Barry. Manilow Live (AristaSSOO) is almost a carbon copy of his’ performance last ‘December at Symphony Hall. Matter of fact, the album was recorded about two weeks following his Phoenix appearance’during his 14-day stand in New York;City at Broadway’s Uris Theater.
Included-are all the Manilow standards “Mandy,” “It’s A Miracle,” “Could It Be Magic,” “This One’s For You,” “Weekend In New England,” “Looks Like We Made It” and “I Write
The Songs.”

The added attractions come with “New York City Rhythm,” which Manilow introduces with some special words about his Brooklyn beginnings and the “Jump Shout Boogie ‘Medley” which includes’ the title song, “Avenue C,” “Jumpin at the Woodside,” the old Lambert, Hendricks and Ross favorite “Cloudburst” and “Bandstand Boogie.” Both cuts will put-your foot to tapping.

IF ANYTHING HOWEVER, the album captures Manilow in his V.S.M.(for Very Strange
Medley) production. These are the songs, jingles or whatever you want to call them, that kept Manilow in eating money while he was working for the big break. And no he didn’t write McDonald’s “You Deserve A Break To’day,” but did perform it for the commercials. He did however write the,Stridex and Band-Aids (“BandAids Stuck On You”) jingles.

Other commercials included in the. medley, which Manilow also worked on, are Kentucky Fried Chicken (“Get A Bucket of Chicken”), State Farm Insurance ( L i k e A Good Neighbor”), Dr. Pepper (“So Misunderstood”) and Pepsi (“Join The Pepsi Generation”).

THE LAST OF THE TRULY tacky women, as she calls herself, is too much for two pieces of vinyl to corral. Bette Midler Live At Last (Atlantic SD2-9000) was recorded at Cleveland’s Music Hall and has an energy level never attained in three previous studio albums.

But hearing Bette Midler and seeing Bette Midler are two different sensations and’ the latter cannot be compared with the former. As mightily as Midler and her crew probably worked the total effort falls short.
Still in all, if you can’t have the whole pie, try ha;f a pie. You can enjoy some nice moments
with John Prine’s “Hello In There ” (but strangely enough, of all her'”standards” this one
comes off much better on the studio album than hye), “Delta Dawn,” “In The Mood,” “Do You Want To Dance” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.
THE HIGH WATER MARK of the show seems to be Bette’s vision of a tired club singer, who has never really risen above working the Albuquerque Holiday Inn. “The Vicki Eydie Show” is a medley which includes “Around The World “ “Istanbul,” “Fiesta In Rio,” Hawaiian War Chant” and “Lullabye Of Broadway.” Judging from the audience reaction, the production is a real winner. If you didn’t see the show, just pretend it’s a radio program and let your imagination run amuck.

Actually that’s not a bad, idea for all live albums, figuring one’s imagination can be much wilder than anything anyone could ever put on a stage.

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